“Fast-break” implementation

The world is changing very fast. Big will not beat small anymore.  It will be the fast beating the slow.                                 –  Rupert Murdoch

In today’s speeding business environment, there’s no time for the ‘trickle-down’ process of communication of changes in strategy or objectives.  Results must be obtained quickly. And quick results are only achieved when the entire organization is mobilized and focused on specific deliverables that relate directly to the new strategy. If the energy, enthusiasm, ideas and spirit of all employees can be released, it is amazing how quickly things change and results begin to happen, often extraordinary results!

The most effective means of capturing the hearts and minds of employees is to get them actively involved in the development and implementation process. Give them a voice, give them the accountability, give them recognition and feedback and they will propel your company forward. Revising the traditional change communication process from the usual one-way broadcast approach to a series of engaging dialogues is a major component of effective change implementation.

And it must be leader led!  The senior team must facilitate and communicate in these workshops.  It’s not the role of HR, the Communications department, or outside facilitators.  It’s the most important role the senior team has – engaging and enrolling the entire organization in implementing the business strategy.

So why is most employee communication usually left to HR or the Communications Department?  First, it’s bloody hard work.  It takes time, it takes preparation, and it takes real listening (perhaps the hardest skill of all).  And secondly, most senior executives are somewhat intimidated by the role of “facilitator”.  It’s easy to stand up and give a PowerPoint show-and-tell presentation then ask for questions at the end (usually there are few because most of the audience is brain dead by that time).

It’s much more difficult to show up authentically, as a facilitator, and share your own insights and concerns about the plan and to engage employees in an honest dialogue about the future of the company.  But be prepared, it may be hard work and takes some training, yet at the end of these workshops most senior managers leave the room feeling 10 ft tall and at the same time humbled by the wisdom and energy in the room.

Too often the communication program for strategy deployment involves video-taped messages from headquarters, e-mails, or a mention at the weekly management meeting. These often raise more questions than answers. And the biggest question of all, “what does this mean to me?”, rarely gets answered sufficiently to motivate people towards implementation. But with a little creativity it is relatively easy to make the communication process engaging and inspiring.

For example, at one large telecoms company, the IT group needed to shift the way they did software design, from the waterfall method to an “agile software” methodology in order to support the company’s strategy of being more customer driven.  After nearly a year of putting in place skill training, CBT courses and a massive reorganization, morale and productivity had plummeted.  The question being asked was; “how do we get people engaged to deliver on the new strategy?”

A quick assessment of the situation within the IT groups found much confusion and rumour about what was expected of them and how they were supposed to work.  Rather than just reacting with, “we’ve told them a thousand times!”, the senior team decided to lead the change implementation process.  They took the corporate strategy and built a series of compelling stories, each told by one of the senior executives, which put the entire change strategy into the words and world of IT.  They even developed a “plan on a page” – the entire business strategy drawn out on a single page, with the role of IT featuring prominently.  They then organized 1-day workshops for 100 employees at a time (they conducted 80 such workshops!) and facilitated an open, honest dialogue on the entire strategy change.  They even brought in customers to talk with the group.  Power points were banned in favour of dialogue!  Interactive discussions replaced “executive presentations”.

The results?  Besides the enthusiasm and renewed respect for management and the company, changes quickly began to come together and the next year IT delivered on all its major strategic commitments, and with a reduced headcount as well.

Think speed!

Tight Lines . . .

About johnrchildress

John Childress is currently Visiting Professor in Strategy and Culture at IE Business School in Madrid and a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at john@johnrchildress.com or john.childress@theprincipiagroup.com
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